It’s not that they’re replacing humans. On the contrary, the latest generation
of industrial and service robots is better able than its predecessors to interact
with people. That improved compatibility, combined with greater adaptability
and lower costs, has led to a proliferation of robotics projects: more product
development, more installations to assist existing processes, and more midstream reprogramming and repurposing initiatives so that the flexible new
robots remain useful throughout their life span.
In 2014, global robotics sales exceeded 200,000 units, the highest number
ever, which surpassed the previous year’s largest-ever number of nearly 180,000
units, according to the International Federation of Robotics. The trend is
expected to continue: Global robotics spending should grow from US$15 billion
in 2010 to US$67 billion in 2025, the Boston Consulting Group reports.
“Breathtaking advancements and innovative technological developments”—
such as faster, more reliable and more precise machines—have made robots easier to use and to integrate into industrial processes, says Gudrun Litzenberger,
general secretary, the International Federation of Robotics, Frankfurt, Germany.
Even for experienced project practitioners who have worked with robots, the
new breed presents fresh challenges and changes. “Advanced robots operate
in more chaotic environments than traditional factory automation would put
them in, including applications that require them to move inventory from place
to place,” says Bryan Webb, COO and CFO of Kitchener, Canada-based Clearpath Robotics, which specializes in the design and manufacture of mobile robots
for research and development, and industrial applications.
grow from US$15
billion in 2010 to
billion in 2025